I spoke with Pierre Carrey from Union Cycliste International recently. He has written an article on the new “Adrien Niyonshuti Cycling Academy” in Rwanda and asked to include a photo we took when Team Rwanda’s Jock Boyer and Kimberly Coats kindly arranged Adrien to chat with our sports kids. The photo below captures our kids happiness when receiving Adrien’s autograph on the really cool stickers Kimberly gave to them. Please enjoy Pierre’s article below and congratulations to all for the work being done.
Rwanda launches its academy for young cyclists
By Pierre Carrey
The Rwandan Cycling Federation will inaugurate the “Adrien Niyonshuti Cycling Academy” on May 26th. Named after the country’s best rider of the moment, the academy will prepare up and coming riders, both men and women.
The academy will enable riders aged from 16 to 18 (Junior category) to reconcile sport and studies, thanks to a training centre that is open in the evenings, the weekends and the school holidays. In the first year, 15 boys and 8 girls will train at the centre in Rwamagana, east of Kigali.
The trainees will study at one of the city’s excellent institutions and, at the same time, will benefit from a comprehensive cycling apprenticeship at the academy: training, nutrition, tactics (from watching videos), mechanics… At the end of their training they will be able to focus on a professional career in cycling and sport, or join Rwanda’s national team.
“In order to obtain future champions, it is necessary to provide riders with quality support from a young age,” explains Aimable Bayingana, President of the Rwanda Cycling Federation. “The academy will nurture these young talents in a region of the country that encourages cycling, but it will of course train athletes from all over Rwanda.”
UCI President Pat McQuaid adds, “The International Cycling Union supports this excellent initiative which is directed at the grassroots. We hope that the most talented of the trainees at the Adrien Niyonshuti Cycling Academy will be able to come to the World Cycling Centre in Switzerland or its satellite in South Africa to perfect their training. Rwanda is an example to be followed in cycling because it is building its future in the wider sense and places a great deal of importance in cycling both from a social and sporting point of view”.
More than 200 bikes distributed in Rwanda
The man behind the academy, Adrien Niyonshuti, aged 27, has put a great deal into the project. Rwanda’s flag-bearer at the London Olympic Games, the professional with UCI Professional Continental (second division) Team MTN-Qhubeka presented by Samsung is the country’s best-known sportsman. He is a symbolic representative of the generation that endured the genocide in 1994, but he managed to come out of this trauma to achieve a certain level of sporting success.
The athlete, out of road competition since February due to thrombosis, has devoted the last few weeks to his academy projects. “Before retiring, I want to make use of my notoriety to develop this academy,” he said. “The people of Rwanda need to understand that cycling can sometimes be a means of buying a house and a car. Today I lead a good life thanks to this sport and I would like to see other youngsters able to follow suit.”
The Adrien Niyonshuti Cycling Academy, which is still looking for sponsors, has the support of the association World Bicycle Relief. More than Qhubeka 200 bikes are due to be distributed to youngsters from 10 years old so that they can get to school more easily. These bikes will simplify their day-to-day life as well as facilitate the detection of new candidates for the academy.
The national coach Jock Boyer and the association project Rwanda will provide logistical support. The former American professional has already helped raise funds with a mountain bike event, the “50 Mile Ride for Project Rwanda” organised on April 27th at Foothill Ranch, California.
“It was Jock who introduced me to high level cycling in 2007,” says Niyonshuti. “He formed the national team, and cycling progressed considerably in Rwanda. Today, through the academy, I would like to help the National Federation develop our sport. It’s a way for me to give something back to cycling.”
Photo (credit Julie Ghrist): Adrien Niyonshuti, very popular in Rwanda, is a role model for young cyclists and, in this case, for tennis players.